As I write this, there’s snow on the ground, it’s 18 degrees outside, and the roads and sidewalks are like skating rinks. What happens if you slip, take an unexpected tumble, and end up injured? Can you sue? Let’s take a look at the law in Washington State and consider your options.
First the Stats. According to the National Floor Safety Institute:
Falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (21.3%). Slips and falls account for over 1 million visits, or 12% of total falls.
Fractures are the most serious consequences of falls and occur in 5% of all people who fall.
Slips and falls do not constitute a primary cause of fatal occupational injuries but represent the primary cause of lost days from work.
Of all fractures from falls, hip fractures are the most serious and lead to the greatest health problems and number of deaths.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Washington State is 3 years. So if your accident happened more than 3 years ago, unfortunately you won’t be able to pursue a claim. There are some limited exceptions, such as when the injured person is under 18. It’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to make sure you’re protecting all of your rights and identifying all responsible parties.
In Washington State, premises liability law says property and business owners must keep their property in a reasonably safe condition to protect visitors and customers from unreasonable risk of harm. I know that’s wordy and confusing. Basically, while it’s hard to prevent every icy patch, if we know it’s going to be icy, we are obligated to take steps to protect people from slipping. For example, shoveling snow, treating ice with sand, ice melt, etc.
Property owners of a business’s location, and snow and ice removal contractors may also be responsible. Consult with a personal injury attorney quickly to make sure you have all the right information.
Once you know who may be responsible, you might have a case if the following conditions are met:
- Duty of Care: The property owner, occupier, snow and ice contractor, etc. had a duty to keep the premises safe. They have to exercise “reasonable care”, meaning they have to take precautions a reasonable party would take.
- Negligence: The property owner or occupier failed in their duty by not taking reasonable steps to prevent snow and ice accumulation or provide warnings.
- Causation: The icy conditions directly caused your injuries.
- Damages: You suffered damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
Remember, it’s essential to establish that the responsible party’s negligence contributed to your fall. So, check for things like failure to shovel, salt, or warn visitors about the icy conditions.
Comparative Fault: Icy Slip & Shared Responsibility
In Washington State, if you slipped on ice, the juries and judges consider everyone’s share of responsibility. If you bear some fault for your slip—for instance, you were texting while walking on an obviously icy sidewalk—you can still recover damages. However, your compensation would be reduced based on your degree of fault.
Types of Damages You Can Recover
When you sue for a slip and fall on ice in Washington State, you can recover damages such as:
- Medical Expenses: This includes hospital bills, doctor visits, prescription medications, physical therapy, and any other costs related to treating your injuries.
- Lost Wages: If your injury forces you to miss work, you can seek compensation for the income you’ve lost during your recovery.
- Pain and Suffering: Slip and fall accidents can be painful, physically and emotionally. You may be eligible for damages to compensate for your pain, discomfort, and mental distress.
- Property Damage: If your personal property, like a smartphone or laptop, was damaged during the fall, you can seek compensation for those losses as well.
Slip and falls can cause serious, life changing injuries. Can you sue if you slip on ice and get hurt in Washington State? Yes, but it’s essential to gather evidence, prove negligence, and consider your own level of responsibility.
A quick story: We had a case a few years ago where a lady slipped on ice and was badly hurt. The responsible party claimed it wasn’t icy and that the surveillance videos showed our client had tripped over herself. We smelled a rat and sued for the surveillance video. What did it show? It was indeed very icy. Our client and the people who helped her were slipping all over the place.
The moral of the story – hire an experienced slip and fall accident lawyer if you slip on ice and get hurt, to make sure you’re getting what you deserve.